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Densification perfection – Milieu’s modern take on suburban living

A prime example of densification done well, this new home built on a rare subdivided section in Auckland’s Mt Albert provides separate yet connected dwellings for two generations.

Designed by Milieu Architecture, the house encompasses a home for a couple and their dog, as well as a separate dwelling for one set of parents. The couple’s home features living spaces below, with bedrooms perched above the garage, while the parents’ home is encased in a brick single-storey form that protrudes outwards, with slot windows adjacent to the driveway to allow for privacy while letting in light.

“The building is designed with overlapping volumes that provide separate yet connected spaces both within the homes and between them,” says architect Kate Beilby. “The two homes have separate entries – and the dog has free run between both properties!”

Mt Albert’s heritage zoning rules informed the cladding choices for the home. White shiplap weatherboards on the upper floor are juxtaposed against a rich, textured brick, chosen to tie in with the materiality of surrounding homes.

“The brick is Aged Red from The Brickery,” says Beilby. “It’s a premium brick made in the traditional method, with a soft, rustic aesthetic that contrasts nicely with the crisp white timber. We then have the brick wall running right through and meeting the kitchen, creating a connection between inside and out.”

Opposite this wall, Shinnoki oak veneer linings further the warmth and natural colour palette of the interior. This material is used for the staircase, and creates concealed doors that access the garage and storage spaces. Inset shelves in the hallway display the couple’s Lego builds and a 3D-printed model of the house, which takes pride of place on the upper shelf.

Concrete floors and an Airy Concrete Caesarstone benchtop in the kitchen further the soft, natural tones in this space, as does the pistachio green cabinetry. A curved upper cabinet echoes the curves seen in the brick garden borders outside.

Upstairs, the master bedroom is a lush haven of deep blues, featuring a Designers Guild chinon textured wallpaper. The bedroom opens onto a cleverly designed sunroom with views over the Waitakeres, explains Beilby.

“The clients had talked of putting a balcony up there but, as it was over a living space, there would have been some extra expense and complications with waterproofing. With the potential for views of the sun setting over the distant hills, we envisioned the space being used more in the evening, when it is cooler. So we landed on creating a sunroom that has the essence of a balcony, using timber flooring and carrying the shiplap lining from outside.”

Much of the interior design was completed by Mary Ellen Hinton of Hello Saturday, who aimed to create personality and warmth in the home through the use of bold patterned wallpaper in the powder rooms and bedrooms, and decadent fabrics throughout.

“My clients wanted soft, comfortable, relaxed spaces. Soft carpet underfoot, soft velvet chairs and cushions, soft velvet beds and bedlinen. We chose wool beanbags and comfortable couches, especially the Axel with the slouchy arms,” she says, adding that the wallpapers especially added depth and an element of reflectiveness to the rooms.

Although a little more low-key in terms of colour choices, the parents’ home is also beautifully designed, with plenty of natural light and a chic combination of materials.

With its crisp, modern palette of colours, cohesive exterior, and a well considered floorplan lending privacy and space for both couples, this Mt Albert house is a key example of how density can be achieved while still maintaining the essence of an established streetscape.

The Best of 2021

Last year was a big year for ArchiPro’s community, with engagement reaching new heights and views going through the roof. To bring in the new year, we’re celebrating our top professionals, projects, product suppliers and articles. So who was the most viewed in 2021?

Find out more here

No cowboys: how to choose a trusted builder for your project

Choosing a proven and trusted builder for your new build or renovation project is the first step to achieving the right result.

Words by Justin Foote

With more than 17,000 licensed building practitioners in New Zealand it can seem like a daunting task to choose the right one for your project. There are a number of common sense actions you can take to narrow down your search—ask friends for a referral, check online for reviews, comb your local area for projects already underway and ask potential contractors for the addresses of projects they have completed.

While this won’t guarantee you a hassle-free building experience, it will go a long way to making the whole process as smooth as possible, says Troy Jury, Director of QBS Construction.

“Not all builders are the same so it’s important to know what sort of builder will fit with your project vision the best. We believe the following four attributes are required to make any project a success: communication, trust, dedication and quality.

“Each project is different and each comes with its own foibles. At its heart, a project is a relationship between both parties and can be a significant undertaking for both. Therefore, having full confidence in your build partner starts with having each of the four attributes in place.”


The QBS team stripped this bungalow back to its bones and rebuilt it as part of a renovation programmed designed to align it with modern-day living while retaining its heritage charms.

QBS Construction: qualified building solutions

Founded in 2011 and based in Parnell, QBS has a focus on high-end renovation, heritage and new-build projects in the central Auckland area.

“We have a team of 12 builders with three ‘behind the scenes’ staff including myself,” says Troy. “I generally run three to four guys per site team, although that is dependent on the size of the project—have had up to 12 guys working on one project in the past. I’ve found that the right fit for us is having 2–4 projects on the go at any one time.

“QBS Construction’s strength lies in our site leadership and the way we structure our site teams with a good mix of experienced guys and apprentices. We also are continually training our apprentices, we want to retain that knowledge and experience within the company.

We’re adaptable and capable of undertaking any building project. I’m able to back myself thanks to my knowledge and experience—gained over the past two decades. For clients looking for a company that can offer a really strong end-to-end process—we’re a really good choice. We’re a young company with drive and determination to succeed.”


The grand foyer of this new build in Auckland’s Herne Bay features cast-iron balustrades, oak flooring and a custom, circular ‘window’ looking into the whiskey/wine cellar.

QBS Construction: a passion for the business

Troy has been in the industry for 19 years and says his passion for building hasn’t grown any less in that time.

“As a kid, I wanted to be an All Black; had the heart but not the stature to be a fullback. I was always more practical than academic, so once I realised I wasn’t going to be an All Black, I left school and got on the tools, qualifying at 19.

“I spent nine years working for a renovation/new build company, where I was lucky enough to learn the trade and to work on some really high-profile projects, working my way up through the ranks. I went out on my own at 22.”

Not so much on the tools anymore, Troy says his role at QBS is to project manage the jobs—carrying out quality checks and dealing with the schedule as well as checking in with the clients.

“I’m really passionate about the industry and about ensuring the longevity of the business. Futurewise, we’re really focused on working with architects, an area of the business that we’ve been developing over the last 18 months to two years and which is turning into a growing component of what we do.”

Learn more about the services offered by QBS Construction.

Breaking barriers in the trades: Bex the builder

We spoke to Rebecca Smith—aka Bex the builder—and found out what it’s like being the only female on a building site, the physical challenges of building, and whether the industry is ready for pregnant builders.

Words by Jo Seton

It was a chance offer that led Rebecca “Bex” Smith into a building apprenticeship. Three years ago she was immersed in a desk job promoting the Australian Football League (AFL) and co-ordinating New Zealand teams, but the industry wasn’t booming and she felt like she needed to activate a plan B.

“I wanted to get into project management—I like working with people, managing, timeline planning and organising. I thought I should probably get a fundamental understanding of how things work, how structures are built.”

It just so happened that her friend Troy Jury from QBS Construction was looking for a female apprentice to diversify his work force. But Bex wanted to know what he thought about females in the industry before committing to an apprenticeship.

“He said, ‘I don’t know if it’s ready for it, but totally go for it—it’s a great industry to be in and you’ve got thick skin, so you should be able to handle the worst that it could throw at you.’”

Bex didn’t have a family background in building, although she remembers helping her dad build their family home (“In the 1990s when you could do whatever you wanted!”), but her biggest concern was whether she was physically capable of performing the job.

“Troy said to me in my first interview, ‘If you can carry a sheet of Gib and a sheet of ply I’m happy. That’s the baseline standard. As for a massive shunt on something, or lifting something really heavy, you’re not really supposed to be doing that anyway… No-one should be maxing out and putting their back out to try and move something.’”

Comfortable that she had the strength needed to perform the role, Bex started her apprenticeship with the team at QBS Construction, working on new builds, renovations and small-scale commercial projects.

The male-dominated environment was nothing new to her, as she’d grown up with dad and two brothers, however, she says being the only female on site means she does stick out like a sore thumb.

“I always describe it as if you saw an elephant walk on site, you’d look at it, because elephants never come on site. It’s the same as having a female on site. It’s not very common, so people will look twice and I don’t take offence to it. Some people look very confused or a little bit like ‘Can I help you?’ I don’t hold it against them!”

The team of carpenters and builders she works with has been extremely supportive, but she says there was one encounter on site with a plumber subcontractor that wasn’t as positive.

“I was doing all the heavy lifting and the other guy who is a lot stronger, a lot bigger than me was doing the easy job. The plumber was like ‘What kind of show is this? What’s she doing that job for when you’re over here?’ In a way I think he was trying to stick up for me, or trying to say [my workmate was] more capable so [he] should be doing that job. But my workmate was like, ‘No, she can do it. She’s the apprentice. That’s the rule here, I do the thinking, she does the labour.’”

While Bex says the plumber’s reaction is the exception rather than the rule, it did make her feel he thought she wasn’t as capable as her colleague.

But Bex doesn’t think it’s necessarily her gender that prompted the reaction; her stature and strength are a constant challenge.

“It’s not necessarily a female thing, it’s just that I’m small! There’s girls out there that can lift double what some of the dudes at work can.

“I’m working at 110% a lot of the time. So on average, when we’re unloading the truck, you probably need to take two sticks of 4×2. Three sticks if you’re trying to be tough. I can take three sticks—that’s me at about 80%, but for the guys that’s them at 40%.”

Bex has noticed there are disadvantages to being a male on a building site too, and it comes down to the same stereotyping that can be as toxic for males as it is for females.

“I don’t need to prove my manhood, I don’t have to prove my strength, because everyone knows I’m Bex and I’m small. I can see some of the younger guys feel like they need to keep up with the experienced, massive guys—it’s that toxic masculinity of having to show how big and strong and tough they are.”

Now in the third year of her apprenticeship, Bex is seeing more female faces pop up around the place. She says women have an unspoken bond on site and often acknowledge each other with a knowing smile and an eyebrow raise.

She believes the industry is receptive to more female tradies and it’s just a matter of time before it’s normalised.

However, not all trades are equal in terms of physicality, so for anyone entering the trades, she says it pays to understand what you’re getting into.

“It’s not all sunshine and rainbows. That’s nothing to do with being a woman— just the job, being a builder…Most trades are physical, so if you don’t enjoy breaking a sweat…”

“She can do it, she’s the apprentice—that’s the rule here, I do the thinking, she does the labour”

Bex predicts that by early next year she’ll have completed her apprenticeship, and she has goals she wants to achieve. These include building her own home and hopefully starting a family in the next couple of years. It will be unknown territory for both her and her employer.

“I don’t know what building will look like pregnant. That’s a conversation for me and my boss to have because there’s no blueprint for it. The women I know who have been pregnant on the tools, they’ve worked until 36 weeks…

“[Then] there’s health and safety for the baby; you could wear all of the PPE in the world, but I still probably wouldn’t feel comfortable around asbestos, silica dust, all of those things, even if I was all covered up. That’s a personal choice.”

But planning for all eventualities is Bex’ strong suit and the diploma she has started in construction management will mean that she can take some time off the tools and go back to her love of timelines and organising projects.

That feeds into another goal she has planned for the next five to 10 years, which is to start a building company with her partner, bringing his civil project management knowledge together with her building experience.

This move will bring her full circle, as she plans to hire her own female apprentice, offering another aspiring female builder the same opportunity that once landed in her lap.

“I really like to push girls getting into the trades because I know how unsure I was. Any career change is scary, but it was nowhere near as daunting as I thought it was going to be!”

4 Tips for Keeping Your Renovation Project within Budget

Whether you’re renovating now or in the future, it’s always wise to be prepared. Creating a budget is one of the first steps to consider. However, even with a budget planned to the last finishing, you may overspend due to any number of unforeseen snags.

Here are four tips to stay on top of your renovation costs.

Be Realistic

When creating a budget, some home-owners make the mistake of setting a tight budget. They want to keep costs low by doing the work themselves, shop for wholesale items and base their budget on anticipated figures. If there is no allowance for contingencies or flexibility of work, they have already set themselves up for greater expenses.

Be honest about how much money you’re willing to save, even if it inflates your initial budget more than you expect. If you don’t like DIY projects or lack the skills, be realistic about the cost of using professional builders ‒ they may save you money in the long-run. Shop around for an estimate and set your budget at a realistic level rather than the lowest possible cost.

Get Specific

Specificity is one of the best ways to stay on top of your budget. Before hiring a building contractor, be sure to have a clear picture of what you want your living space to look like. Consider all the materials you want to use and what changes you need to make to your current layout.

The more details you tell your building contractor, the closer they’ll get to a realistic estimate of your project’s overall price. Your goal is to make your specification detailed enough so that the only difference between your estimate and your contractor are labour costs. Their material costs may be cheaper since they have better knowledge of building suppliers.

Stick to the Plan

Once your renovation is in progress, it can be tempting to add modifications. For example, you may consider changing the outdated flooring in your living room or renovating some of your kitchen. Although it may be easier to renovate another room in your house while the builders are working, remember your financial limits and avoid costs ballooning out of control. Consider budgeting the same way as your current project, so even if you decide on starting it after your current renovation project, you’ll feel in control of your money.

Expect the Unexpected

Even the tightest budgets need to have room to cover unforeseen expenses. Sometimes, renovating a room uncovers a maintenance issue that needs immediate attention. It may change your renovation plan, especially if there are structural implications. Make sure your budget has some flexibility to meet unforeseen costs so that you’ll be able to cover the added expense.

Choose Qualified Builders

Looking for the right builders for your renovation project? Contact Qualified Building Solutions for your next project. We specialise in house renovations in Auckland, including a full range of services such as building, trades, interior decorating and more. We handle renovations of all sizes from standard kitchen renovations to complete home transformations.

After telling us your plans, we’ll help you stay on track with your budget. Give us a call on 021-217-0003 to start your project.

4 Tips to Make Sure Your Renovation Project is Completed on Time

The average home renovation can take 4 to 9 months. There are exceptions to this rule, with some projects being major or minor in size, but most renovations fall within this timeline.

The first step to making sure your renovation project goes smoothly is to hire the right renovation contractors to oversee the whole operation. Of course there are causes of delay that are out of your control, like weather or shipping delays, so do focus on factors that you can control. And that’s your choice of builders.

Look into these three tips to break down the renovation process and identify issues to prevent project delays and interruptions.

Sort Out Your Priorities

It’s easy to focus on what you envision your home to look like after the project is completed. But it’s important to pay attention first on the unseen features of how it will function, as opposed to its visual aspects. Look at the crucial factors, such as repairs to your roof and guttering, rewiring, timber decay, etc. Pinning these elements down helps you avoid issues that may arise mid-project.

Ask about Your Project’s Schedule

When you find the right contractor, request for a realistic schedule for your renovation project. While unexpected issues can easily emerge in the process, your contractor should be able to give you a reasonable timeline.

Your project’s schedule is more than knowing the start and completion dates. Ask your contractor for a timetable that details specific tasks and milestones in your project. With a detailed schedule, you will see the bigger picture of what needs to be completed at which juncture. It also gives you concrete plans to measure in order to ensure the entire project is progressing according to plan.

Be Aware of Timeframes

It’s good to know how long specific projects usually take to give you a general guideline to base your schedule. A small renovation project such as a small bathroom refurbishment takes 4 to 8 weeks to complete from the initial design stage to the finishing stage.

A mid-sized job such as a kitchen renovation usually takes 8 to 12 weeks. If you’re planning a large project such as a full renovation of the house and its extension, the process can take 18 months from start to finish.

Work with Qualified Builders

At Qualified Building Solutions, we always ensure that our home renovations in Auckland are completed to the highest standards within schedule. We are dedicated to delivering the highest level of customer service and workmanship. With over 75 years of experience and over 230 successful projects, we have honed our skills to provide only the best for you.

Our licensed building practitioners are part of the New Zealand Certified Builders Association. Our builders are not only selected for their vast industry knowledge but also for their exceptional coordination and communication skills. They will keep in touch with you throughout the entire project to keep you updated at every phase and milestone.

Call 021-217-0003 to enquire about our services.

What to Consider When Choosing a Builder for Home Renovations

Every once in a while, extensive home renovations become a necessity for reasons ranging from correcting design flaws to remodelling space to accommodate new family members. Renovations are a major undertaking regardless of the scale even a small renovation can go badly wrong, and certain factors must be considered before booking a service.

Step one is choosing the right builder. A successful project won’t be possible without a team who can deliver to the standards you expect and guarantee on-time and on-budget completion. QBS licensed builders believes this starts with the first meeting on site, your builder should be asking you questions about the home, your family & your life this shows he is trying to build a foundation for how to approach your project. If he is not, he most likely is not interested. Before you even receive pricing from builders consider How they have been to deal with so far? How long did it take for them to get back to you? Was the communication professional? Things like this are a clear sign of what’s to come, At Qbs, we consider every job small or big to be extremely important to our client and approach all projects equally.

Your choice of provider can be the difference between a successful project and a waste of time and resources.

Here are some more tips to consider when selecting a home renovation service:

Make sure you know what is included in the scope and ask for a scope document, Your choice will usually be determined by the builder’s quote. The more affordable the service, the more attractive it is. Unfortunately, not all quotes are transparent, and people are often surprised when hidden costs suddenly show up along the way or toward the end of the process. Quotes are typically based on the scope of the renovation plan, and it is easy for some considerations to get lost in the shuffle. Consider was the quote tidy and easy to understand? Did the builder provide a check-list and company disclosure with it? Don’t just look at the bottom line.

Consult your builders thoroughly and go through the quote & design plans to ensure total transparency and spot any potential hidden costs before they become an issue, have the existing house condition checked top to bottom even if it costs you! this is very important!

Going for the cheapest quote is very common. Nonetheless, you should be wary of services that are significantly cheaper than competitors. Generally, builders of the same calibre and quality of service will be within the same price range with about a 10% difference. If a builder’s price is far lower than the benchmark, it may indicate inferior quality and skill or that there has been an error in price computation.

Either way, clients may find it troublesome in the long run and counterproductive to your goals. If you choose to obtain such a service, ask for a comprehensive quote. Review your builders’ testimonials, speak to 2/3 of the latest clients he has had and do your due diligence on their back round!

Not doing the proper research Before booking their service is risky, it helps to find out as much as you can from every builder in order to have a clearer picture of their skills and quality of service.

QBS Construction — Comprehensive Home Renovation at Affordable Prices If you are planning to renovate or remodel your property soon, don’t hesitate to call us. At Qualified Building Solutions, we live up to our name. Customer satisfaction is our priority and we strive to fulfil it with excellent workmanship and an equally superb customer service.

When you work with us, you have the assurance of professional and top-quality home renovation services in Auckland delivered by a highly skilled team of builders. We offer competitive quotes for our services, and our builders will communicate with you throughout the process.

Qualified Building Solutions offers a complete set of home renovation, building and interior decoration services across Auckland. Discuss your needs with us today.